The Soul of African Poetry

Posted: January 20, 2011 in MUSINGS
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The Sunset is Hope

The Sunset is Hope

In Africa, everyone is a fighter.

The African spirit is a spirit that is constantly seeking, always searching, always roaming, constantly restless. No, maybe I should be talking about the African soul instead.

Many poets have chronicled the passion and soul of a continent that has fought herself out of wars, colonialism, apartheid and is now warring against neo-colonialism. Now, the truth is that Africans have always had reason to be on edge. It is only natural that our poets script our collective journey along the walls of a common history.
There is no disputing the fact that Africa is seen by Africans as a Nation: The Motherland. This is important to anyone who reads African poetry, because then, you can see through Zambian eyes to understand Nigerian poetry. You can see through Senegalese poetry by wearing Ghanaian glasses. And you can appreciate South African poetry even if you are sitting on the banks of the Nile in Egypt. When a poet anywhere on the continent says “me”, he speaks more as a citizen of the Greater country than as a staunch nationalist. A classic example of such context is the poem “Young Africa’s Plea” written by Osadebe (review coming soon).

Claiming Tomorrow

Claiming Tomorrow

Many of the established African poets who are studied and read today draw on themes that were common to Africans everywhere, even bordering on the Diaspora. In fact, greatness in achievement has in times past been likened to whose poetry has helped shape Pan-Africanist ideals most. This helped to push Pan-Africanism and improved the cooperation between states in forging out common destinies. Imagine this: Leopold Sedar Senghor, one of the leading poets coming out of Africa, was a one-time Senegalese president, Kofi Awoonor, one of Ghana’s leading poets was Ambassador to Brazil and his compatriot Atukwei Okai has served in like capacity to a poet Laureate, Dennis Osadebe was a founding Father of the National Council on Nigeria and the Cameroons while Wole Soyinka has long served as the most outspoken voice on political decadence in Nigeria. This is a small mirror to the large image of poets all over the continent fighting for the popular rights of the common man made unpopular. How could I even leave out Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o, not poet but playwright, who was forced into exile for 22 years for standing against Kenyan rule, having taken the lead in standing against colonial rule? And all this with a pen!

But Africans don’t only write about their struggles, after all, great love stories await the warriors who come from the battle. The most beautiful words have been woven for unnamed damsels who have represented the African woman. Sometimes, even the continent itself has been eulogised as a woman. The affection that Africans attach to their home is intense.

So in this blog, many diverse lyrics will be explored: the romantic, the emancipationary, the dirge, the attributive, the epic, the melancholic, the landmark, the historic. None of them will be far from the soul of African poetry. None of them will stray from the identity of the man who blends in with the heart of his continent. The man whose very footsteps are the heartbeat of the place he calls home. This home called Africa.

I am proud to belong here.

  1. Sibusiso says:

    Africa for Africans


  2. Ayodeji Abdkareem says:

    Powerful and inspiring words. I thank you for them.


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